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by Kathleen Karr

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-32773-4
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Karr (Spy in the Sky, 1997, etc.) embellishes her reputation for spirited, comic adventures with this tale of a young entrepreneur who drives a thousand head—of turkeys—from Missouri to Denver in 1860. Strapping Simon Green can’t pass third grade (he’s tried four times), but he’s a canny businessman: After learning that two-bit turkeys will sell for $5.00 in Denver, he persuades his former teacher to bankroll him, hires a drunken muleskinner for help, and sets out, braving weather, rivers, rustlers, clouds of grasshoppers (not exactly a disaster, with a thousand turkeys to feed) and other hazards, picking up two orphans—one a fugitive slave, the other sole survivor of her settler family—along the way. Karr draws characters with a very broad brush, contrasting a bloodthirsty troop of US cavalry with a helpful band of Pottawattomie—“ ‘As official peacekeepers for our territory, we feel it incumbent upon ourselves to see that nothing unorthodox occurs on our lands’ “—and supplying an inept, eminently boo-able villain in Samson, Simon’s unscrupulous father. Not only do the turkeys practically herd themselves, they fetch an even higher price in Denver than Simon expects; in the end, with his new partners and a few dozen birds, he decides to try ranching. A wide-open western epic, inspired by actual drives and featuring a cast of capable young people. (Fiction. 10-13)